FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Welcome to New England, wide receiver Corey Coleman, where former first-round draft choices have come to revive or prolong their careers -- with mixed results.
The Patriots’ one-year agreement with Coleman on Tuesday highlights this trend, as the club now has six players who were first-round picks by other teams on their roster: defensive end Adrian Clayborn, receiver Phillip Dorsett, cornerback Stephon Gilmore, receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, defensive tackle Danny Shelton and Coleman.
Of the group, Dorsett, Patterson and Shelton fall into the "re-energize their career" category, as they were traded to New England after not being viewed as worthy of the status in which they entered the league.
All are off to productive starts in 2018, as the Patriots have offered them a clean slate to see if some of the high-end physical traits that made them first-round picks can be harnessed in their specific offensive and defensive systems. That’s essentially the concept when the team brings in a former first-rounder: Focus on the unique things that made them such a high pick in the first place, understand why it didn't work out with their former team (e.g. scheme fit, culture fit, salary considerations etc.), and then proceed with mostly limited expectations.
One could go back to several of Bill Belichick’s 19 years as Patriots head coach to find notable examples of this.
Trading for receiver Randy Moss in 2007 is easily the headliner of hitting the bonanza. Moss' freakish athletic traits made him the 21st overall pick in the 1998 draft, his time with the Oakland Raiders was spiraling downward in '07, and the Patriots swooped in.
That, obviously, is more of the exception. There simply aren't many Randy Moss-caliber players to ever play in the NFL.
But just as that was a stroke of genius, there are other times that the hopes of reviving a former first-rounder's career hasn't unfolded so favorably. For example, when the team traded defensive end Chandler Jones to the Arizona Cardinals in 2016, it received guard Jonathan Cooper as one part of the deal's return. The No. 7 overall pick in 2013, Cooper -- who had been one of the team's highest-graded players when he came out of North Carolina -- never panned out in New England.
That was similar to a 2006 trade to acquire defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan from the New Orleans Saints in exchange for receiver Bethel Johnson. In 2003, Sullivan had been the No. 6 overall pick, and the thinking was that maybe he’d be a better fit in New England’s two-gapping scheme, but it didn’t work out.
Another dud? Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, the 15th overall pick of the 2002 draft, who had a brief stint in New England in 2011 after being acquired for a fifth-round pick but was let go after six uninspiring games. In 2011, defensive end Shaun Ellis (No. 12 overall in 2000) also didn't make a big impact after signing as a free agent as the club tried to squeeze one more year out of him at the end of his career.
But that same year, veteran defensive end Andre Carter (No. 7 overall in 2001) was a solid contributor. In 2010 and 2011, the club got some production out of defensive tackle Gerard Warren (No. 3 overall in 2001). Those are examples of former first-round picks whose careers weren't necessarily revived, but prolonged.
Some more examples?
In 2016, Shea McClellin (2012 first round), Michael Floyd (2012 first round), defensive end Chris Long (2008 first round) and linebacker Barkevious Mingo (2013 first round) found their way on to the roster and are part of the "revival/prolonging career" conversation in different forms. The 2014 signing of cornerback Darrelle Revis (2007 first round) helped spark Revis' resurgence, as did the 2012 deal for cornerback Aqib Talib (2008 first round) and his career.
In each case, there was an obvious reason each player was once viewed worthy of a first-round draft choice, and there were a variety of factors that contributed to them either not reaching those expectations -- or being viewed in a different light by their former team -- at the time they came to New England.
Sometimes the results lead to a revived/prolonged career. Other times, it doesn't work out. Soon we'll see where Coleman falls on the ledger.